HELL OF ROAD TRIP PT V, Pt. 2.
We stopped for coffee at a tiny diner, but the absurdly friendly locals, tantalizing beignets, and $3 egg breakfast enticed us to stay for more. The beignets were the best I’d ever had, better than Café du Monde, and the 21-year old local boy who made them bragged to everyone who came in: “They came all the way from Los Angeles for my beignets.” This made Vanessa cry. Many things do. This is her strength. David the alligator hunter kept saying what a blessing it was that we were here to talk to them. He had a pet raccoon who liked to shower with him. How did he get it? “I killed the mama.” Then he sold it to Goose from Top Gun. I really can’t believe how friendly everyone is in the south, all races included. In L.A., people size you up to see how much of a threat you are to their self-esteem/status/standing in the industries they are desperately trying to be a part of. In LA (Louisiana), people don’t size you up, they just give you sizeable portions and chat amicably. I remember talking to a Black family from Baton Rouge on the Gulf Coast who were nothing but appreciative and jolly, despite our crazy clothes, strange behavior (they wouldn’t let their kids swim in the Gulf waters because of the oil spill), and white skin. This is not my experience in the Northeast or California. Then again, I imagine if we were Black and chatting up white locals we may not get so friendly a welcome. I am always reminded as we tool through small towns or places where only locals go, that with our California plates and packed-up car, we may have a less sociable welcome, especially from the local law enforcement, if we weren’t white. These communites, after all, can be incredibly segregated. Savannah, GA comes to mind—a colonial house, droopy-treed luscious downtown of little museusm and coffeehouses…and mostly white people. Move 1 mile in any direction and it’s all Black. Same with New Orleans, outside of the French Quarter or St. Charles mansions. Indeed, the most disturbing stop so far was Magazine Street in New Orleans. Why? Because of the hipster takeover. Don’t get me wrong—I’ll take a hipster over a frat boy or out-and-out racist anyday, but hipsters are particularly American in their franchiseability: no matter where you go in America, the hipsters where the same thing and bring the same shops into town. It was depressing to see Buffalo Exchange, American Apparel, Starbucks (in New Orleans?!), Ben and Jerry’s, and overpriced thrift stores with the same tired hip slogans and safe nostalgic ironic T-shirts. New Orleans, after all, like Austin, is distinguished for its plethora of ma and pa stores and unique businesses. I do recommend, once you get past the hipster area, Frankie and Johnny’s, where we ate delicious alligator soup, more spiced-up than Lindsey’s Aunt Jimmy’s southern language.
Louisiana really is another country. A better country. It has everything that for me the rest of America lacks: a distinctive, excellent cuisine; a city to rival the best cities in Europe; a totally unique music scene; and, a little bit of French sensibility (though the Cajun and creole traditions are of course unique) . Notice I used ‘distinctive’ twice. Los Angeles, New York, Chicago are distinctive, of course, but there is so much there that is still so predictably American. New Orleans doesn’t even seem like America to me. (It certainly wasn’t treated like it was part of America by the Bush administration post Katrina. I remember how thankful they were in 2007 for our tourism, and even on this trip one waitress said “Thank you for caring.”)
I really can’t get over the shotgun shacks, totally derelict houses, and the victory of nature over civilization in this part of the country. There is no holding back the rampant, roiling vegetation. The countless armadillos littering the roadside remind me that cars are a relatively new invention that the world still struggles to adapt to. Let me some up the housing situation, though, more forcefully: this country is ABSOLUTELY SHAMEFUL in what it has allowed to happen to the majority of its citizens, from their health care situation to the lack of tax dollars going to community projects. Suck it Republicans. Suck it Democrats. We need a strong Socialist party. Anyone who thinks America is strong country full of happy people lives in a gated rich community and doesn’t road trip through the small towns of the South. Plain and simple—I’m sick of hearing friends in Beverly Hills tell me what’s wrong with America (our taxes are too high!). Why don’t you get out and see it, before you talk about it, you armchair pundits.
MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, SOUTH CAROLINA
After days in Texas and Lousiana, we sped through 5 states in two days. It’s all a blur of thick, wet air, a cacophony of nighttime insects, and lush greenery. The panhandle of Florida is particularly depressing. A long tunnel of trees broken by anti-abortion, power of prayer, and tractor sale billboards. Native American names everywhere and Native American presence nowhere. Lots of gun stores. I particularly enjoyed the “Guns and Fireworks” drive through. Savannah, GA is one of the most beautiful cities in the USA. Try to go. Bring an air-conditioned space suit.
Now we’re in Eutawville, South Carolina, visiting Lindsey’s family. Lindsey flew out to meet us, and will join us for the next week of Hell of Road Trip pt. V! We played in the Citrusville Citizens’ Sports Tournament, masterminded by Lindsey’s genius 14-year old brother Raymond. He also gave us an impressive organ concert.